The Waiting Game

Tomorrow is the magic day to open the nucs to see if the queens are mated and laying eggs well. We made splits on April 7th and April 8th using the Mel Disselkoen method of OTS queen rearing. After we had a good report from the state apiarist, we decided to take some nuc orders as we are attempting to sell nucs for the first time this year.

Last year, our nucs mated at our property a few miles away and we never got to see the close up nitty gritty of the process and maybe that was for the best, because this year I am immersed in the process and cannot believe the amazing wonderment of the entire thing, but I am also shocked at the angst and bewilderment in realizing how much I still don’t know about bees and what that does to me. Sure, it may sound silly to admit, but I am one to be brutally honest, maybe even too far of myself. Here’s the thing….I don’t know what I don’t know and I am sure that I will be discovering a lot as I learn over time – and can I learn these things through books ?, no….I must actually try, and fail, then try again. Waiting is humbling and nail biting at the same time.

After making our splits this year, we realized that we were experiencing robbing from a neighboring apiary. How did I know I was being robbed? No, the culprit bees weren’t wearing masks and carrying crowbars – I could only tell, because the bees were a different strain than our bees (yes, there are races of bees that were developed due to isolated geographical breeding – mountains and islands being very isolating and certain races of bees were created that have distinguishing characteristics, color being one factor), these robbers were the happiest color of sun shiny yellow you could find. Our bees are more grayish yellow. So, seeing these bright pops of sunshine lower themselves to a life of crime was disheartening. I thought robber bees only took the food source of other bees, but soon realized that they may have been responsible for the killing of one of my queen cells which I had found ripped open and empty when checking the splits to make sure the queen cells were developing properly in the middle of April.

Using our robber screens to protect the mating nucs caused at least one nuc to have a cluster outside it, which may mean that the queen got confused and couldn’t find her way back because of the screens. Live and learn.

Thinking that the robbers could kill other queen cells in my mating nucs, I did lots of research and found that some people use robber screens effectively to stop robbers. I worried that the robber screens could impede my mating queens during their mating flights, but in the limited reading I could find, it seemed like the queens usually find their way back inside the mating nuc. I took a chance to protect the mating nucs from robbers, but may have hurt the mating queens’ progress. I sure hope I made the right decision; there is no way to know until tomorrow though. It kills me that I may have less nucs ready to sell than the orders I have. I will feel very guilty and demoralized if so, but even if most of the queens didn’t “take” I have a back up plan. But, bees know more than me and,hopefully, if the robber screens impeded them they figured out a work around, just like I will have to find a work around if I have less nucs ready than I would like. I’ll just make more queens without robber screens and wait a few more weeks for laying queens. Sometimes (all the time) agriculture can be about the unknown and taking a risk, and then learning from the mistakes that are made.

Tomorrow, depending on the results I find in the hives, I may have to reread this to remind myself that I am still learning, that I need to have patience with myself and I can play the waiting game…. because didn’t I learn as a child, “It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game?”